Letter to the editor 1, August 27, 2020

Dying with Dignity

Dear Editor,

This is in reference to the editorial which appeared in the August 13 edition of The Journal.

In your editorial, as in articles in the past, you continue to lay blame for the toxic work environment in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges palliative care residence (VSPCR) solely on the doctors when you make reference to the supposed ‘Founders Syndrome.’ We have always chosen not to respond publicly to such hurtful and unwarranted comments preferring instead to devote our energies to the care of our end of life patients. However, given these exceptional circumstances, we want to draw your attention to certain facts as they pertain to the recent firing of several doctors.

Since the opening of the VSPCR 10 years ago, our task has been to provide our patients with the highest quality end of life care and to provide support to their families and loved ones. Despite the many trials and tribulations that have occurred at the VSPCR over the years, we have fulfilled our mission with compassion, humanism, rigor and professionalism.

In this regard, we are proud and deeply touched by the high praise we have received from countless families regarding the quality of both the physical and the psychological care provided by all the VSPCR medical and nursing staff. In fact, a large percentage of the donations made to the VSPCR has come from families of patients that we cared for. According to a firm of consultants in the field of philanthropy this percentage is significantly higher than the average of other similar institutions. This, in large measure, has enabled us to pursue our mission.

All the major palliative care residences in Quebec which are comparable to the VSPCR, have a service contract with the Centre Intégré de Santé et des Services Sociaux (CISSS) in their region. This service contract, in part, provides for a certain number of doctors specialized in palliative care linked to the CISSS to be assigned to practice in a specific palliative care residence. This relationship exists in order to ensure continuity of care as well to monitor the quality of the medical practice of the doctors in attendance in that residence.

Up until last April, the VSPCR had the same service contract with the CISSS of the Montérégie-Ouest (CISSSMO). However in May, the senior management of the VSPCR demanded that the CISSSMO amend the service contract effective immediately. It was then amended in such a way that the doctors in attendance at the VSPCR would no longer be linked in any way to the CISSSMO. This, in effect, cleared the way for the senior management of the VSPCR to evict five of the six doctors in attendance at the residence without notice and without cause. Our numerous requests for further information or explanation from the senior management of the VSPCR have gone unanswered to this day.

While it is not our place to pass judgement on the soundness of this course of action, our 10 years of experience tell us that it raises a whole host of questions and issues. It will now be up to the population of Vaudreuil-Soulanges, the donors, the members of the VSPCR Foundation and our political leaders among others to take stock of this new reality and assess its results.

Meanwhile, in conjunction with the management of the CISSSMO, we continue to provide high quality palliative care to patients in their homes as attested by testimonials by family members of some of our home care patients. In addition, we continue to seek alternative means of putting our expertise at the service of the citizens of Vaudreuil-Soulanges.

On a more personal note, we are proud and happy about what we accomplished and experienced during our years at the VSPCR. We will always treasure the wonderful memories of the endearing people we met, of tender moments, moments of joy and moments of great sadness shared with a fantastic team of healthcare professionals and volunteers to whom we will be forever grateful.

Thank you for providing us this opportunity to share with the community we have been serving for these many years.

Dr. Sylvie Dufresne

Dr. Andreea Iancu

Dr. Aida Pop

Dr. Annick Terret-Hans

Dr. Sarah Verger-Demers